Brunswick power upgrade expected to bring out business park foes
BRUNSWICK — A proposal to build a business park on Old Portland Road has been dead for nearly nine months.
But the fight over development of the 114-acre parcel lives on.
That was apparent Monday night, as business advocates spoke in favor of a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant to upgrade power capacity on the property at the corner of Old Portland Road and Durham Road. The proposal would allow Maine Tool & Machine to move from its Industry Road location to a new mixed-use development owned by Bill Moore.
Moore last year negotiated to sell the parcel to the town for a business park, a project that would've required expanding the town's growth zone to accommodate larger buildings. After talks broke down, Moore vowed to advance a private development that would fit existing zoning.
Existing zoning would accommodate Maine Tool & Machine's expansion, but that hasn't stopped former business park opponents from fighting it. The council has already received several letters and e-mails from residents opposing the town's CDBG application.
None of the opponents were present Monday when the Town Council scheduled a June 1 public hearing on the issue. Proponents, however, were.They included Heather Collins, executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber, and business owner Art Boulay.
Collins said the investment was one the town should embrace, adding that Maine Tool & Machine plans to add three to four new jobs and tax revenue to the town.
"Job creation and business growth is necessary if we want our communities to prosper," Collins said.
Boulay, meanwhile, encouraged the council not to be swayed by residents with narrow interests.
"It's all too easy for these issues to be determined by small groups of letter writers," he said. "We don't always think about the entire town of Brunswick."
"There will be vociferous comments back and forth," Boulay warned. "But this is a local business. Let's encourage it to grow."
Boulay's comments were in reference to several letters and e-mails opposing the project. One, written by Nat Wheelwright, argued that the town had twice attempted and twice failed to build a business park on the property.
"The arguments against the (business park) proposal are numerous and well-known," Wheelwright wrote. "In brief, they include triggering sprawl; violating the intent of two successive Comprehensive Plans; contradicting the clear expression of the citizens of Brunswick; and committing the town to costly and, in light of the upcoming reuse of (Brunswick Naval Air Station), inappropriate development."
Wheelwright added that the town should change the zoning of the property from its current mixed-use designation to its former farm and forest zoning. The zoning was changed in the 1990s before Moore purchased the property.
On Monday, Chairwoman Hallie Daughtry, who had opposed the business park, asked town staff to provide information about the zone change for the June 1 public hearing. Councilor Karen Klatt, another ardent business park opponent, asked for information about the grant application.
Moore has begun his lobbying effort, too. In a May 15 e-mail to the council, he said he's moving forward with the development because the property isn't suited for any other type of development. He reiterated that Maine Tool & Machine's expansion would meet existing zoning standards.
"I am requesting no zoning changes or variances for this development," he said, adding "... It is important to take small steps now, to ensure the business community that Brunswick is a positive place to conduct business. A vote for Maine Tool & Machine's grant application will send out a positive message."